Category Archives: Feast Days

Thanksgiving 2023 – and an “epileptic Rabbit Trail…”

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“Jesus heals an epileptic” – But did Matthew really know that “modern medical term?”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did. (John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I’ll get to Thanksgiving in a bit, but first want to say something about a tendency to go down Rabbit Trails. I do a lot of that in my writing. That’s why my family and others say my writing “goes all over the place.” Like, sometimes I go “off on a crazy tangent” or make crazy turns in writing. But I like rabbit trails, even as I try to follow that rule about Unity and Coherence in Writing. Which brings up a Bible passage I saw in Monday morning’s Daily Office Readings.

The Gospel was Matthew 17:14-2. In the Lectionary – Satucket version, Matthew 17:15 reads, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly.” That made me wonder. I’ve been doing the Daily Office since 1992, and am now on my 15th trip through the Bible. But this is the first time in those 31 years that that passage caught my eye. “Is that how it’s written in Greek? Did the Hebrews or Greeks know that much about epilepsy?”

Which turned out to be another rabbit trail, which is nothing new for me.

Like some time ago my Daily Office reading included Psalm 46:9, “He makes wars cease… He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” That made me wonder. Why specifically burn shields, those broad pieces of “defensive armor carried on the arm?” So I “rabbit trailed” and learned that in the original Hebrew, the word – translated “shields” – refers to “Something revolving, a wheeled vehicle.” More precisely, a chariot, the offensive tank of its day. Which means going down rabbit trails can be educational, so here’s the latest one.

 It seemed to me – Monday morning – that the term “epilepsy” sounded way too modern for Matthew to use. So first off I went to the Bible Hub website. I wanted to see how the verse got translated in the King James Bible. (You know, the one God uses?) There the passage reads, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed.” And most other translations read that the son had “seizures.” So I wondered, was this one of those new, updated translations that conservatives call “undignified?” (As departures from the “real” Bible, as noted by Garry Wills?) As for example, 1st Corinthians 14:6, where the original Greek reads, “Now brothers…” But some updated modern versions read, “Now brothers and sisters.” To that I’d say, “Use ‘brothers and sisters’ now, as long as we know how the original version read.”

Be all that as it may, that Matthew 17:15 rabbit trail led me to “something new under the sun:”

The ancient Greeks also began to speculate on the causes of epilepsy at this time – in fact the word ‘epilepsy’ comes from the Greek word for ‘to seize’ or ‘to attack’ because they believed seizures were caused by demons grabbing or attacking people. Some … also believed that epilepsy was a divine gift and a sign of genius and they called it the ‘sacred disease.’

None of which I knew, but learned about – just this past Monday morning, for the first time – from The history of epilepsy – the ancient world | Epilepsy blog. The article said that Hippocrates – who died in 370 BC, “father of medicine” – took issue with the idea that epilepsy was a “sacred disease ” idea. He said, of “the disease called ‘sacred[:]’ It is not, in my opinion, any more divine or more sacred than any other diseases, but has a natural cause … the fact is that the cause of this affection … is the brain.” The article concluded, “This is arguably when epilepsy was discovered.” In other words, some time around 400 B.C., or almost 500 years before Matthew wrote his Gospel, some Greeks knew about epilepsy. (Though the article added that “Hippocrates’s beliefs were not widely understood at the time and most people in the ancient world still thought seizures were caused by demons.”)

Which means there’s no clear cut answer to the question, “Was ‘epilepsy’ too modern a term for Matthew to use?” Or it could be said the answer “lies somewhere in between.” Maybe Matthew didn’t know the full technical term “epilepsy” as we understand it today. On the other hand the general term used back then did cover a lot of linguistic territory. It mostly referred to “seizures,” as generally translated in most Bibles. Which also is nothing new.

That is, the situation also resembles the faulty translation of “leprosy” from the Hebrew word ẓaraʿat. While traditionally translated at “leprosy,” the Greek translation for this word too “covers a wide range of diseases that produced scales.” And the original Hebrew word ẓaraʿat too embraced “a variety of skin ailments, including many non-contagious types.” Which also means, “There he goes again, going down one of those dang rabbit trails!”)

Which means in turn that it’s about time we got back to Thanksgiving 2023. Put another way, “What do all those rabbit trails have to do with the American holiday every November?” I’ll get to that in a minute, but first a note: “Thanksgiving” in America actually started a long time before 1863, when that day was made a nationwide holiday by Abraham Lincoln. And for that matter even long before 1621, with the first “Pilgrim Thanksgiving” in Plymouth Massachusetts.

For Native Americans – the first inhabitants – “gathering to give thanks was already a familiar custom, taking place not just annually, but 13 times throughout the lunar, calendar year – a cycle known as the Thirteen Moons. As one Wampanoag said, “Thanksgivings are a big part of our culture. Giving thanks is how we pray.” (The Wampanoags were the tribe who helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter, when half of them died.)

In other words, special days of thanksgiving have been around a long, long time. And as it also turns out, for a very good reason: “As more researchers dig into the science of gratitude, they’ve found the feeling likely played a key role in helping our ancestors band together and survive.” Which turns up another rabbit trail. “Who knew there was a science of gratitude?”

But there is, and it has a definite healing effect: “Thanking others, thanking ourselves, Mother Nature, or the Almighty[,] gratitude in any form can enlighten the mind and make us feel happier.” Which is why our annual Thanksgiving and all its other forms have stuck around so long: “That legacy continues today, as being in the mood for gratitude shapes who we are as a species and how we connect with the people around us.”

Which could be another rabbit trail, but it’s time to bring this post to an end. To end with the custom in many families for each member, around the table, to say specifically what he or she is thankful for this Thanksgiving 2023. So I’ll start: I’m thankful for the chance to go down all those rabbit trails, and keep on learning new things, every day, through the magic of blogging.

Now, if I could just make those blog-posts all unified and coherent.

Happy Thanksgiving – 2023!

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The “First Thanksgiving,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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The upper image is courtesy of Epilepsy Images Bible – Image Results. The image is attributed to “Wilhelm Tell,” not William Tell. (Which is the name I usually got in my Google Search.)

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

The full link to the Rabbit Trail comments is Today’s Idiom Is … Rabbit Trail.

For more on my tendency to go down Rabbit Trails see On Halloween 2023 – and a Sheol “rabbit trail,” which in turn borrowed fromthe lower part of the text in On Eastertide – and ‘artistic license,’ from 2016.Also on the topic of epilepsy see Is epilepsy mentioned in the Bible? |

Re: Garry Wills. In his “What Jesus Meant” Wills noted a general conservatism in Bible translations, as for “reverential archaisms.” The result? Whenever a new translation comes out “it is almost always called undignified,” in that it departs from the King James Version. He added that the original Koine was a rough-hewn, “pidgin” marketplace Greek, often clumsy and muddled so much that translators invariably “try to give more churchiness to the evangelists.” Pages xi to xii, “Note on translation.”

Re: “Something new under the sun.” See contra, Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Re: “Brothers,” or “brothers and sisters.” The Bible Hub commentary to 1st Corinthians 14:6 said the Greek brothers (ἀδελφοί (adelphoi) – “Vocative Masculine Plural” – referred to a “brother, member of the same religious community, especially a fellow-Christian. A brother near or remote.”

As for Thanksgiving itself, see past post I borrowed from, like On Thanksgiving 2019, On Thanksgiving – 2021, and from 2022’s On Thanksgiving 2022 – and an Unknown American Icon. They detail things like the story of John Howland, who came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant, who was swept overboard in mid-Atlantic and almost drowned, but who went on to populate America with 2 million of his descendants. And how less than half the original Pilgrims survived the first year, and how of the 18 women, only four survived. (And other juicy details.)

The “giving thanks” quotes are from Thanksgiving is a year-round practice of giving thanks : NPR, and Giving thanks isn’t just a holiday tradition. As Wikipedia also noted, Days of Thanksgivng were celebrated quite often in England. One such nationwide day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed in 1588, after the victory over the Spanish Armada. Another “unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving” began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, but that day then evolved into Guy Fawkes Day

The Wampanoag taught the first Pilgrims “how to cultivate the varieties of corn, squash, and beans (the Three Sisters) that flourished in New England, as well as how to catch and process fish and collect seafood.” (Wikipedia.)

The lower image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “” 

Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR

Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – 2023!

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If these Men had compared notes – not argued – they’d have a better understanding…

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November 11, 2023 – I’ve been lax. Today is Veterans Day, and I just checked the Search box at the upper right to see what I’ve posted about that holiday. Nothing. Nothing at all, which means it’s time to correct that omission. And talk about how a strong military can keep all of us free to practice our religion as we see fit. And at the same time to welcome the competition that comes from our ongoing dialectic, a process that tends to strengthen everyone’s Faith.

Like the Blind men and the elephant – pictured above – if they had excluded “subjective elements such as emotional appeal and rhetoric” – and not argued so much – they might have come up with a far better understanding of just what an “elephant” is. But back to Veteran’s Day and how a strong military can keep all of us free to begin that process of “comparing notes.”

Some of which ties into last year’s post about this time, Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – [November 15,] 2022. That post said the one major the Feast Day “between” Halloween and Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday. Which was true last year, when we celebrated that day on November 20. But this year it comes on November 26, three days after Thanksgiving.

That 2022 post harked back to the 2015 post, Hitler and Mussolini help create Christ the King Sunday. It came in 1925, a year that started – on January 3 – with Benito Mussolini promising “to take charge of restoring order to Italy within forty-eight hours.” In Russia things were moving toward the creation of the NKVD, which later became the KGB(Of Vladimir Putin fame.) In July 1925 Adolf Hitler published Volume 1 of his manifesto, Mein Kampf. Also, in the United States, July 1925 featured a show of strength by the Ku Klux Klan. Thus the Pope’s reaction:

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 [after] the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe…  These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church [and] the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning…  (Emphasis added.)

Which brings up the need for Veterans – past, present and future – and the need to honor them. (And not just on November 11.) Defined as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service,” a Veteran has put the interest of our country above “their” own self-interest, and often put their lives on the line as well. And as such they are the surest guarantee against all foreign would-be dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. (While keeping in mind Lincoln’s warning that “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we lose our freedoms it will be because we have destroyed ourselves from within.”)

Which brings up Christian nationalism. As noted in Between, from 2022, such “nationalists” tend to become “authoritarian and oppressive.” Which makes that term an oxymoron, a self-contradiction. “Christianity is grounded in Christian scriptures where Jesus teaches love, peace, unity and truth. Christian nationalism preaches hatred, violence, separation, and disinformation.”

See the Between post from 2022 for more detail, but it also pointed out another problem. Today’s Christian Nationalists get political power from the fact that their political opponents don’t know that much about the Bible. They can’t tell when the Bible is being misquoted, misused or abused. “But that ‘problem’ is also the Achilles’ heel of Christian nationalism. Mostly because Jesus opposed all such ‘Nationalism.’” See for example, Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly.” So if you think a political opponent is “ungodly,” that’s exactly who Jesus died for.

So we need a strong military – our Veterans, past, present and future – to protect us against foreign powers. But we also need more people more familiar with what the Bible and Jesus really say, to protect us against “nationalists” who would distort the Bible to advance their own political agenda. In sum, have a Happy Veteran’s Day and a happy Christ the King Sunday, even though this year it doesn’t come between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

And work toward getting more people to understand the real message of Jesus. Especially among those “ungodly” Jesus expressly died for. (“The harvest is plentiful…”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Blind Men And The Elephant – Image Results. See also Blind men and an elephant – Wikipedia, for more on the parable. For another “between” post see Psalm 137, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem” – 2021, from November 12, two years ago.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

The full link to this year’s Christ the King Sunday is When is Christ the King 2023? – CalendarZ. As such it is “considered one of the latest incorporations to the Western Liturgical calendar,” as noted above.

Note: A Veteran is fully defined as one who has been discharged “other than dishonorably.”

Re: The Lincoln quote. See Fact check: Abraham Lincoln quote is fabricated – USA TODAY. It said there was “no record of Lincoln actually uttering that statement,” but that he did “speak to the spirit of the quote well before he ran for president in 1860, and well before he served his one term in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847-49.” See the link for more details.

Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Veterans Day.

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On Halloween 2023 – and a Sheol “rabbit trail…”

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An image of Sheol, from the Old Testament. Is this just another word for Netherworld?

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October 29, 2023 – Halloween isn’t just day. (This year coming this Tuesday.) It’s actually one of “three days of Hallowe’en.” More precisely, October 31 is the first of the Halloween Triduum. It’s also called Allhallowtide, and Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpg

According to Wikipedia, this triduum is a time to remember the “dear departed.” And not just martyrs and saints, but all faithful departed Christians. The main day of the three is November 1, now called “All Saints Day.” It used to be called Hallowmas, and was established some time between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.” Hallowe’en – literally the “Eve of All Hallow’s” – started with an old-time idea that evil spirits were strongest during the long nights of winter. And that the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their most permeable – the barrier was lowest – on the night of October 31. And by the way, the term “Hallowe’en” developed from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.

Which brings up the masks and costumes that are a big part of Halloween. In the old days – when people thought the barrier between this world and the next was at its lowest – people wore masks or costumes to disguise their identities. The idea was to keep the ghosts or spirits – coming from the netherworld world – “from recognizing live people in this ‘material world.’”

The same is true of bonfires. Literally bonefires, fires where bones were burned. One idea behind that? Evil spirits could be driven away with noise and fire. Also, old-timers thought the fires brought comfort to “souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.” And in Merry Old England there were three types of bonfire:

…one with only clean bones (“bonys”) and no wood called a “bonnefyre”, one with clean wood and no bones called a “wakefyre”, and the third with both bones and wood, called “Saynt Ionys Fyre”. Apparently the original [custom] fell into “lechery and gluttony”, so the church deemed it instead as a fast.

Of course there are other types of bonfire as well, not falling into lechery and gluttony. For example, garden bonfires which – if done right – are a “useful source of potash and may be beneficial in improving the soil structure of some soils.” (While “managed with safety in mind.”)

The day after Halloween, November 1, is All Saints Day. It honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.” A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.” But actually, we should distinguish “Saints,” with a capital “s” from those with a lower-case “s.” Briefly, all living Christians are called to be saints, with a small “s.” A Saint with a capital “s” is usually one who has passed on. (But that too is “another whole can of worms.*)

Be that as it may, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’” Observant Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the service on the following Sunday includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

With all that in mind: “Have a Happy Halloween Triduum!”

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A prayer for All Souls Day, this year on Thursday, November 2…

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The upper image is courtesy of Sheol: The Grave or so Much More? – The Israel Bible. An interesting article, citing (for example) Psalm 89:49, or 89:48 in the Bible Hub translation. In the ESV, “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” Or in the NLT, “No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” (You get the point.) I was looking for an image I’ve never used before to put in this latest Halloween post, and found the Sheol article. Good, but it opens up a whole new can of worms: Described as the opposite of heaven, Sheol is “a place to reluctantly pass time after dying,” and where the person has “no memory of his life nor the ability to praise God.” Sounds like Hell to me, but like I said, “a whole new can of worms.” (Meaning I’ll have to address the question – Is this just another word for Netherworld?in a future post.) “Which [also] brings up the topic of rabbit trails.” See the lower part of the text in On Eastertide – and “artistic license,” from 2016. All this stuff on Sheol was definitely a “rabbit trail.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

I based this post on past posts including: The Halloween Triduum – 2019, On Halloween 2020 – “Scariest ever,” On the Hallowe’en “Triduum” – 2021, On Halloween 2022 – and a “Samaritan” update, and Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – 2022.

On “Saints” versus “saints.” See What are Christian saints according to the Bible: “All Christians are considered saints. All Christians are saints – and at the same time are called to be saints.” Also Saints, big and small – U.S. Catholic, and Saints with a Capital S – Covenant. See also the note above on rabbit trails and “whole new cans of worms.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls Day Image – Image Results.

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On St. Luke’s day – 2023

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A sentiment especially appropriate in these days of polarization and open warfare…

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Wednesday, October 18, is the Feast Day for St. Luke. He wrote the third-of-four Gospels, and also wrote the book Acts of the Apostles. (The “fifth book of the New Testament.”) And some scholars have called Luke’s Gospel the most beautiful book that ever was.”

Luke wrote the longest of the Gospels, and so – with Acts – his two books make up a full quarter of the New Testament. (According to Garry Wills in his What the Gospels Meant. He added that Luke’s two books are longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.) And Luke’s Gospel is considered the most humane of four gospels. Dante said that Luke was the “scribe of Christ’s gentleness.”

Which we could use a lot more of these days.

Isaac Asimov said Luke wrote his Gospel “for the ears of Gentiles who are sympathetic to Christianity and are considering conversion.” (Something to consider in this age of shrinking church membership.) Then too Luke treated Roman authorities “more gently than in the first two gospels, and Jesus Himself is portrayed as far more sympathetic to Gentiles” than in Matthew or Mark. And speaking of polarization, we could use a lot less of that these days. (Polarization that is.) You may be Conservative and think Liberals are “the ungodly,” or vice-versa. But the “ungodly” are just the people Jesus died for.

(That’s Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly,” in case you missed it.) So if Jesus died for the Ungodly, and since “There is none who is righteous, no, not one,” where do we get off being polarized? And Luke includes some distinct accounts showing Jesus loving just those “ungodly:”

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy… Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.

And besides all that Luke was a historian OF THE FIRST ORDER. That’s according to scholars like archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, who said in his accounts Luke accurately described towns, cities and islands, “as well as correctly naming various official titles.” Accordingly (he said), Luke is a “historian of the first rank [and] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Then there’s E.M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University:

“For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides. The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record… it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth.”  

But Luke wasn’t just a writer and historian, he also painted: “Christian tradition states that he was the first icon painter,” and that he “painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child.” He is said to have painted some 600 icons, including the “Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Vladimir. He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to illustrate a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.“ So here’s to the multi-talented Luke the Evangelist, and Apostle, and historian of the highest order, artist and premier “scribe of Christ’s gentleness.”

We could use his example and his prayers over the upcoming weeks and months.

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Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child, by Maarten van Heemskerck

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Luke Apostle Image – Image Results. It goes with a page, “Catholic Prayers.” Also, in writing this post I borrowed from these past posts: From 2014, On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, On St. Luke – 2015, 2018’s On Luke and the “rich young man,” and from 2022, On Luke, James the Just and Halloween. (Which included notes “for a later post” on topics like how to read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and welcoming “aliens.”) Also, from 2019, On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, which I posted after hiking the Portuguese Camino, from Porto back up to Santiago.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Luke as “scribe of Christ’s gentleness.” See also St. Luke: The Scribe of Christ’s Gentleness | Loyola Press, which added that he “was the only Gentile to write books of the Bible.”

The Asimov quotes are from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 912-15.

Re: “None who is righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10, citing Psalms 14:1, Psalm 53:1, and 143:2.

Luke as a historian: New Testament scholar Colin Hemer also attested to the historical nature and accuracy of Luke’s writings.

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

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An update – “Feast Days in France…”

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For 15 days this September I hiked “in the footsteps” of the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail…

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October 12, 2023 – My last post said I’d add updates – to that September 10 post – as I hiked the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, in France. But alas, I never got the chance. The days were just too hectic, the “free” French WiFi was iffy at best, and most days it was enough just to shower, wash that day’s clothes for the next day, and get a good meal – at the end of the day. I also said I’d put those updates between two sets of asterisks (below), which is what I’ll do now, now that I’m back home in God’s Country, safe and sound. (As this first week back moves along. It’s taking some time to get over the jet lag and get back up to speed, like understanding what people around me are saying…)

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September 10, 2023 – The next major Church Feast is Holy Cross Day, Thursday, September 14. Just before – in the Daily Office – come for readings for the Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 46871 Kings 8:22-30Ephesians 2:11-22. Next up is the Feast day for St Matthew, Evangelist, Thursday, September 21. Then Friday, September 29 comes the Feast for St Michael and All Angels.

The thing is, I’ll be in France from September 11 through October 8, mostly to hike the GR 70, also called the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. But I’ll only have a tablet, not a laptop, so covering those feast days will be problematic to say the least. So I’ll do this: Write up this post beforehand, then update it as I hike along the Trail. (After enjoying sights in Paris and Lyon.)

“As far as traveling in France goes, I’ll put updates in between these two sets of asterisks:”

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And now for the delayed updates: For starters, doing the Daily Office readings every hiking day was challenging. In previous hikes I’ve packed an actual printed Bible, but by the time I finished packing for this trip – and some anticipated heavy rain and maybe hail – my pack weighed 20 pounds. (Five pounds over the recommended 10% of body weight. In my case, 15 pounds.)

One less-weight option was the online Lectionary – Satucket. However, that required a good WiFi connection, and as noted, French WiFi was “iffy.” Sometimes non-existent, and sometimes I got the message, “connected, no WiFi.” So quite often I ended up using the PDF King James Bible I’d downloaded onto my tablet. (Which I also used to take pictures and post them on Facebook, and along with commentary for the folks back home.) In the end that worked when necessary, but it was way different reading that Bible with all its Shakespearean English.

As far as those Feast days, explained further below, on September 14 – Holy Cross Day – I was in Lyon, at a hostel called Ho36. I wanted to hike over the two bridges connecting my room to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, said to offer a spectacular view of the city. I ended up hiking Rue Marseilles, parallel to the rivers, but later corrected that error. I finally got to the Basilica, but learned you could only climb up to the top of the tower as part of a tour group. (“Not interested.”) But the hill itself offered a good view.

On September 21, the day for St. Matthew, we ended up in a cute little hamlet, Brugeyrolles, east of Langogne, which we thought was our final destination that day. (With some footsore backtracking.) But the first of many four-course late French meals made up for that “misdirection.” And on September 29 and St. Michael and All Angels, I finished the morning’s DORs in “St. Julian d’Arpaon, a kind of campground.” That day we hiked 13.68 miles, up and over a mountain, “Signal du Bouges.” Which may have been the toughest hike of the whole 15 days of hiking.

So, so much for my experiment of thinking I could post updates while on an actual “Camino hike.” Which I define as a hike where you don’t have to pack a tent, sleeping bag and all your food. Instead, at the end of each day you look forward to a room with a warm bed, hot shower and cold beer. Now it’s time to get back to the original post, which will cover me until I can get over my jet lag and back to my at-home rhythm. And hopefully I can do some more instructive posts in the near future. After all, this Stevenson Trail hike was a pilgrimage:

A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life

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Returning to the original September 10 post: So be on the lookout. Meanwhile, for those September feast days, see Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel” for starters, from 2018: “I wrote in 2016’s St. Matthew and ‘Cinderella‘ that two major feast days in September are Holy Cross Day (9/14) and St. Matthew, Evangelist.” A third major feast is September 29, for St. Michael and All Angels. (Followed by more detail on those feasts…)

The first is one of several Feasts of the Cross, recalling the cross used to crucify Jesus:

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

As for Matthew, he was a tax collector, and in Jesus’ time they were hated. A lot. A “tax farmer,” like Matthew, was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.” And so – in Jesus’ time – devout Jews avoided them at all costs.

They were fellow Jews, but worked for the Romans as tax collectors. Also because they were “usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).” Which led to this lesson from Jesus:

[T]hroughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast. Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all us “sinful and despised.”

As for Michael, he’s mentioned most prominently in Revelation 12:7-10:

[T]here was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. And prevailed not… [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.  And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

See also Michael (archangel) – Wikipedia, which noted that in the New Testament “Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces … where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.” Also, he’s mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people.” So like I said in earlier posts, “I’ll take all the help I can get!”

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In the meantime, if you’re interested you could check out Walking the GR70 Chemin de Stevenson – I Love Walking In France. And finally, about those pilgrim hikes I go on each year. Check out On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey,” from last July 29. (Back then I was planning this trip to France. Now it’s today when I fly out.)

I listed some reasons there, but mostly I do it for the adventure, and to get away from the rut of ordinary, everyday life. But I’ll probably add some more reasons in those updates from France, between the two sets of asterisks above. In the meantime, wish me Happy Hiking!

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The hiking was mostly happy, but challenging, as I hope to detail in future posts. (While also commenting on upcoming Feast days, like October 18’s remembering St. Luke – physician, historian, artist. See also On Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021.) The food was great, as were the many spectacular views from the tops of all those hills in the Cevennes. Which is another way of saying I’m still looking for an answer for people who ask, “Why would anyone want to do that?

The upper image is courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Walking in France. See also On donkey travel – and sluts, my post from February 2015.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Resultswhich led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or “sacred endeaver,” making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”

One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. 

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On St. Bart 2023 – and more mass-shooting massacre…

candlelight vigil – for one of 947 mass shootings in the last two years and 214 days?

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Thursday, August 24, was the Feast day for St.  Bartholomew. (“Bart,” a.k.a. Bartholomew the Apostle.) The next major Feast Day – not counting Labor Day – is Holy Cross Day, on September 14.* On that next Thursday – coming up some two weeks from now – I’ll be in Lyon, in France, getting ready for a 15-day 150-mile hike on the GR 70. (The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.)

But before leaving I wanted to say something about Bartholomew, and massacres, in his day and ours. And something about how they haven’t gone away, they’ve just changed form.*

Unfortunately, St. Bartholomew is best known for a massacre on his feast day in 1572:

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre … in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots…  Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.”  Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.”

But of course there’s more to his story than that. For one thing he was also “famous” – if you want to call it that – for being flayed alive. “In artistic depictions, Bartholomew is most commonly depicted holding his flayed skin and the knife with which he was skinned.” Which is why I didn’t include any images of that martyrdom here. We get enough gore just reading the news…

Which brings up Man’s Inhumanity to Man Mean. Neither that nor massacres have gone away. That inhumanity has merely “changed form.” Or as the poet Robert Burns wrote, Man was made to Mourn. (Where the term “man’s inhumanity to man” first came from.)

Which is another way of saying we have problems of our own to deal with these days. Like the fact that such massacres as the one in 1572 haven’t gone away. For example, in my 2019 post On Gun Nuts and bulls goring I addressed a problem still with us, four years later. (And “even more so.”) The post started off talking about St. Bartholomew and “his” massacre, then morphed into the rising tide of mass shootings today. The post also talked about one conservative politician who said we don’t need responsible gun laws because “when Cain killed Abel, God didn’t blame the rock.” That argument didn’t make sense then, and still doesn’t. In response to that claim – “mass shootings are the price of freedom” – I cited Exodus 21:28-29:

If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death…  But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.

So it’s true that God didn’t “blame the rock” for killing Abel. But He does blame the owner of a goring bull when that owner doesn’t stop more bull-gorings from happening.

According to Exodus 21:28-29, the owner of a bull who keeps killing can’t just say, “Don’t blame me! Blame the bull!” The Bible says that the owner is responsible if he doesn’t keep a second death from happening. (“Or the third, or the 3,788th.”) And to me that principle applies to America today, as when it knows the danger of repeated, ongoing mass-killing-by-firearm but does nothing to stop it. Or even cut down the number of murders a bit.

And the problem has gotten worse since 2019. See for example United States tops 400 mass shootings in 2023 | CNN Politics. Dated July 24, 2023 – just about a month ago – it said as of that date the U.S. had 400 mass shootings, “setting the stage for a record-breaking year in gun violence without any significant federal firearm legislation on the horizon.”

America reached the grim figure on Saturday, July 22, “the earliest in a year 400 shootings have been recorded since at least 2013… In 2019, it took 356 days – nearly the entire year – to hit 400 mass shootings. This year and in 2021, however, the United States reached that marker in just seven months.”

There’s more on St. Bart in the notes, but as for “his” 1572 massacre, someone finally took responsibility. Here’s what Pope John Paul II said, in 1997 in Paris, site of the massacre:

On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue… Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.

On that note, here’s hoping that some day we too in America may begin a “fruitful dialogue.” Like a dialog on how we can stop – or at least cut down – the great number of mass shootings that presently plague our nation. Which brings up the New Testament reading for Sunday, August 27. (Proper 16.) It’s from Romans 12, but the key passage that hit me was Romans 12:2. In the NLT it reads, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Which is pretty much the point I tried to make in “Love one another.” (And thereby get Transformed, like Jesus got Transfigured.) Maybe, eventually, with God’s help, we can finally transform ourselves into a new country. A better country where we no longer think that putting up with so many mass-shooting massacres is “the price of freedom.” Maybe, if we can transform enough, we can have both freedom and an end to so many needless killings…

Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait that 425 years* this time…

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The upper image is courtesy of Mass Shooting – Image Results. I borrowed the image from 2019’s On Gun Nuts and bulls goring. (Together with the caption.) Unfortunately it’s still relevant today, if not even more so. The 2019 post also included this:

The photo accompanies an article, “Stop blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings.” With a comment by conservative author Ann Coulter:“Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do.” The article noted less than 5 percent of the “120,000 gun-related killings in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.”  Instead, people with mental illness were more likely to be victims. “You’re more likely to be attacked by other people, more likely to be shot,” one professor said. “You’re odd. You’re a target.”  Also, mass shootings are most often attributed to things like disgruntled workers or family disputes. “It’s loss of control by people who are extremely angry.”  Finally the article said efforts to link mental illness and violence are “a political strategy to turn attention away from more serious efforts to restrict access to the means of violence – which is guns.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Holy Cross Day is preceded in the Daily Office by readings for the Eve of Holy Cross: Psalms 4687, 1 Kings 8:22-30Ephesians 2:11-22. See also On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel,” from October 2018. “Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which ‘commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus:’”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

 “Just changed form.” A restatement of the First law of thermodynamics, which I first mentioned back in 2014’s On Ascension Day. I said then that Law was “proof positive that the human soul – a definite form of energy – is neither ‘created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.’” 

On God not punishing the rock, see Top NC Republican on Mass Shootings: “Cain Killed Abel.” (To which the writer responded, “It’s so weird how gun violence has nothing to do with guns.”) 

On recent mass shootings, see also List of mass shootings in the United States in 2023 – Wikipedia.

For this post I borrowed from 2017’s On St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre, from 2019’s On Gun Nuts and bulls goring. I also borrowed from 2018’s On Jesus “cracking wise,” and from an earlier On Jesus “cracking wise”, from 2015. See also Nathanael (follower of Jesus) – Wikipedia, and also Meet Nathanael – The Apostle Believed to Be Bartholomew. From which came this:

[T]he name “Bartholomaios” means “son of Talmai” (or Tholmai), but that little else is known about him. “Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel…” John 1:45-51: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about… And so our August 24 “St. Bart” is generally identified as the famous Nathanael who Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under the fig tree. [Or] see Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia. It noted a number of traditions … including that he went on missionary journeys to India, or in the alternative to “EthiopiaMesopotamiaParthia, and and Lycaonia.”

Re: 425. From 1572 to 1997, the Massacre to the Pope’s apology.

The lower image is courtesy of Mass Shootings 2023 Image – Image Results.

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As to the cause of such “massacres,” see Why number of US mass shootings has risen sharply – BBC News. Among the reasons: 1) Americans have more guns now than they did before. 2) “People are afraid, and they want to quell that fear by buying a gun.” 3) A rise in life stressors, both in general and as a result of the pandemic, especially hardships related to finances, employment or family and relationships. (“93% of assailants had dealt with a personal issue prior to their attack, whether it be divorce, health problems, or issues at school or work.”) 4) “Toxic masculinity” – nearly all mass shooters (around 98%) are male.” And 5) Easy access to firearms.

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“Love one another” – get Transfigured (too)…

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Trying to love all people – as a “Crossfire Christian” – can feel like entering No man’s land

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I started off wanting to make this just another post on the Transfiguration of Jesus. (The Feast – the Celebration – that happened last Sunday, August 6, 2023.) And to explain again how it came to be called The Greatest Miracle in the World. But I also wanted to talk about a new name for Christians like me. (The real ones.) A post I would call “On Crossfire Christians.”

The way I see it, that name can help in those situations – so common these days – where someone demands, “What are your politics?” Are you a Conservative or – heaven forbid – a Liberal? Here’s a good new answer that just occurred to me: “Who Me? I’m just trying to stay out of the crossfire. So I’m a Crossfire Christian.* You know, like Jesus?”

Which is another way of saying Jesus didn’t get involved in politics. (Not like so many so-called Christians today.) He was more about saving souls. (And you know what they did to him for that.) Along that line I’m also trying to come up with a short snappy comeback. Say you’re at a bar, or trolling on Facebook, and someone says something really stupid. Something really off the wall. The question becomes, “How do I keep from saying, ‘What are you, an idiot?‘”

First off, that response wouldn’t be Christian. Besides, I’m trying to get the real message of Jesus out, to the people who need it most. (Like those who put their politics above their Faith. And that has crippled recruiting.*) The problem is, “How do you deal with that in a short, snappy comeback?” You need that today because way too many people have their minds set in stone. So, to have any chance at spreading the Good News you need to get your point across quickly. Or in ruder terms, “How do I dumb it down enough to get my point across quicker?”

I finally found an answer in last Sunday’s Transfiguration sermon. (August 6.)

In that sermon our Supply Priest – Father Tom – managed to sum up the entire message of the Bible in three simple words. “Love one another.” Of course I’d read of Jesus saying that before, in John 13:34. But for some reason the way Father Tom made that point – at just the time when I needed such clarification the most – finally brought things into focus.

Again, you summarize Jesus’ whole point in three simple words: “Love one another.”

The full passage – in the NIV – has Jesus say, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” For me, last Sunday, that was exactly the right answer to what I’ve been looking for. The solution to, “How do I deal with so much hate and hostility these days?”

You can argue that other Bible passages are more important – and I have. Like Romans 10:9 and John 6:37. But in this day and age of such polarization, you can’t do much better, or simpler, than respond, “Love one another.” For maximum impact in the shortest possible time, just respond, “Love one another.” (And if you’re feeling especially smarmy you might add, “Some guy named Jesus said that. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”)

Politically it’s a simple effective litmus test. It also works for Facebook posts on a controversial new song. (Like “Try That in a Small Town.”) Just ask, “Does he or she preach (or stand for) ‘loving one another?” Which brings up another passage on point, John 6:60. That’s where so many disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Which explains why too many of today’s so-called Christians don’t seem to follow the call to “love one another.”

Of course there’s also Mark 12:31, where Jesus said, of the Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment.*” But too many people, their minds already made up, can nitpick that one. “That guy isn’t my neighbor. He lives too far away.” Or, “He’s not my neighbor. He’s from Mexico.” (Or some other “foreign place.”) But with “love one another” there is no such problem. Those three little words are simple, clear and precise.

Which brings up The Transfiguration. Simply put, to be transfigured is to be “transformed.” And if you start responding to such polarization with “love one another,” you too can be transformed – transfigured – like Jesus. Not that it will be easy, but then it wasn’t easy for Jesus either.

In 2015 I posted Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. “Unlike the other miracles of Jesus, this one happened to Him. All the others involved Jesus doing things for other people.” That’s why St. Thomas Aquinas considered it the “the greatest miracle.”  (E.A.)

The post also noted that seeing the Transfiguration “transformed” the three disciples, Peter, James and John. They never forgot what happened that day, which was probably what Jesus intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only.” (John 1:14)  Peter also wrote of the event, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18.) Thus:

The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ… That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death… But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus.

In plain words, seeing Jesus transfigured “transformed” Peter, James and John. They went from cowards hiding in an upper room after Jesus “died” into witnesses who transformed the Known World. They transformed personally, then went on to Change the World. Of course you may not be able to do all that, but by reciting the simple “love one another” you can start transforming yourself. And maybe even lower the temperature on today’s boiling-over politico-polarization.

Heck, you might even metamorph from a metaphoric caterpillar to a butterfly…

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The upper image is courtesy of No Man’s Land Image – Image Results. See also No man’s land – Wikipedia, referring to a waste or unowned land or an uninhabited or desolate area “that may be under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied out of fear or uncertainty.” Today the term is “commonly associated with World War I to describe the area of land between two enemy trench systems, not controlled by either side.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: “Crossfire Christian.” Years ago I tried names like “Contrarian” and “Independent.” So for this post I borrowed from Epiphany ’23, the end of Christmas and “farewell Mi Dulce,” which referred back to ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian (or actually an Independent). Also, On Independence Day, 2016, and On Garry Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant.” (Which also addresses Jesus being above – not interested – in politics.) In 2022 I tried the term “Mystic Christian,” and published a book on that, On Mystic Christians: (You know, the REAL ones?) Before that I wrote the more confrontational No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian, in 2018, with the subtitle, and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.

On “crippled recruiting.” See articles like U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time, and Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline.

Re: Jason Aldean song. The link is to Why is Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town’ so Controversial?” Subtitle: “The country star’s song has people divided over just what his message is.” Or Google “that small town jason aldean controversy.”

Re: Second Great Commandment. The first is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

On Nitpicking. According to Wikipedia, that’s “giving too much attention to unimportant detail.” From the “common act of manually removing nits (the eggs of lice” from another person’s hair:

As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors… Nitpicking has been used to describe dishonest insurers and bullying employers, or even bullying family members.

On Change the World. The song first recorded by Wynona Judd, then Eric Clapton in 1996. It became a “perfect example of how music has the power to unite musicians of different genres, nations, and looks.” See Wikipedia for more.

Other posts on the subject include On the Transfiguration – 2020, which included the “metamorphosis” image, and noted the mountain setting of the Transfiguration presented “the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.” See also On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021.”

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On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey…”

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Last Saturday, July 22, was the Feast Day for “Mary of Magdala.” Three days later, Tuesday July 25, we remembered James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several “Jameses” in the New Testament, but “St. James the Greater.” And this James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims

Each year at this time I keep referring to St. James as Patron Saint of Pilgrims, mostly because I usually have a pilgrimage planned for the following September. This year is no different. For 15 days next September I’ll be hiking the GR 70 in France, also known as Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. I wrote of that Trail in the September 2016 post, On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  

The “sluts” in question were mentioned by Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes… [C]onsidered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” [it inspired] John Steinbeck‘s 1962 nonfiction work, Travels with Charley.)

That post ended with a note on Stevenson‘s trailblazing 1879 pilgrimage – with a donkey – in the Cévennes. But I’d written about it earlier, in February 2015’s On donkey travel – and sluts.” And just so you know, his word “sluts” didn’t mean what it does now. (Explained in the notes, the word was grammatically correct in 1879, but raises some eyebrows today.)

For the trip Stevenson invented one of the first-ever modern sleeping bags, and on the hike –  from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille to Saint-Jean-du-Gard – he often had to use it, camping out in the open. And quite often found himself lost and having to rely on strangers for help.

One night he’d run across some village people – not the Y.M.C.A. kind – who fled at the sight of him. He may have been just a wandering camper, but nobody “camped” back then. Wanderers like him were considered bums, vagrants or worse. So, when Stevenson entered a small village and tried to ask directions, he was not received warmly. One “old devil simply retired into his house, and barricaded the door.” He then tried asking two 12-year-old girls for directions – the “impudent sluts” – but they had “not a thought but mischief.” One stuck out her tongue, “the other bade me follow the cows; and they both giggled and jogged each other’s elbows.”

We probably won’t be treated so rudely in September, or have to ask directions. The trail is well marked, lots of pilgrims hike it each year, and there’s no need to either camp as he did, or hope for lodging in a private home. We have our rooms all booked up, so – like all “Camino hikes” – at the end of each day we can look forward to a warm bed, hot shower and a cold beer.

Getting back to St. James and his “Way,” I first hiked the Camino de Santiago – the “Way of St. James” – in 2017. From Pamplona to Santiago, 450 miles in 30 days. In 2019 I hiked the Portuguese Camino, from Porto – home of port wine – back up to Santiago. In 2021 I hiked the Pyrenees part, from France, over the mountains, back to Pamplona and ending in Burgos. And next year we plan to hike the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury, in England, from Winchester.

And why? The chance to take a break from everyday life, to take time out, “time to think, time to get away from life as it is.” Also the challenge, the chance for spiritual development and to get away from “civilization,” to re-connect with nature. Or as we kept saying on the Way of St Francis last September, “It sure beats playing bingo at the Senior Center!”

But we’re getting “off the trail,” so to speak. Here’s what Satucket noted about St. James:

Tradition has it that [James] made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried [at] Compostela… His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries.

Which is another way of saying that the very name itself has had magical powers in the past. But that doesn’t answer the question, “Why go on such a long hike today?” You could find some other answers by Googling Why do People Walk [the] Camino de Santiago? Then too, Stevenson himself provided some good answers in his book.

Early on in his groundbreaking hike – his Travels – Stevenson found himself  groping in the dark for a campsite. (A site described as “black as a pit.”) He ate a crude dinner – a tin of bologna and some cake, washed down with brandy – then settled in for the night. “The wind among the trees was my lullaby.” He woke up in the morning “surprised to find how easy and pleasant it had been,” sleeping out in the open, “even in this tempestuous weather.” He then waxed poetic:

I had been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers; and thus to be found by morning in a random nook in Gevaudan – not knowing north from south, as strange to my surroundings as the first man upon the earth…

As it turns out, that’s the nature of a pilgrimage. A break from “real life,” from the rat race that consumes so many. I noted that in St. James the Greater, and elsewhere described it as “ritual on the move.” As in religious ritual, a “patterned behavior” tied to a religious institution, belief, or custom, often with the intent of “talking to” – or hearing from – God.

Through the raw experience of hunger, cold and lack of sleep, “we can quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings, especially when compared with ‘the majesty and permanence of God.’” In short, such a pilgrimage can be “‘one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating’ of personal experiences.”

Which brings us to “Maudlin’s journey.” Maudlin is just a corruption of Magdalene, as in Mary of Magdala, the ancient Jewish city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. She had her own series of transforming pilgrimages. But one important one – for us today – happened long after she died. That posthumous journey – in its way – led “to a personal transformation,” a transforming of how we see Mary today. For example, Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch noted that for centuries she was “perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity:”

Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

But if you think about it – and read the Gospel accounts – Magdalene showed way more courage than the 11 male disciples, when push came to shove. While those 11 disciples cowered in their room, hiding out lest the Romans punish them as well, Mary went alone to the empty tomb.  John 20:1: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” Thus the one indisputable fact about Mary is that she was both the first person to visit the empty tomb, and the first person to see the risen Jesus. (John 20:11-16.)

That’s why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” And that may have accounted for stories of her “sordid past.” Jealous men – both at the time and later – trying to cover up their own cowardice, or their own bias, by sullying her reputation. So one possible lesson from all this? Keep on “pilgrimaging.” Good results keep coming even after you die!

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Mary of Magdala, arguably a “pilgrim” even after she died…

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Results, which led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or “sacred endeaver,” making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”

One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. 

In my experience the Camino Frances was already pretty well “exploded” in 2017. So much so that my brother Tom took to taking detours away from the main route, and all those fellow pilgrims repeating over and over, “Hola, Buen Camino!” See the October 2017 “Hola! Buen Camino!”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

For this post I also borrowed from 2014’s “St. James the Greater,” 2017’s Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and Mary of Magdala and James the Pilgrim – 2022.

On “sluts.” The term had a different meaning from 1375 to 1425 – and apparently up to 1879. From the “late Middle English slutte; compare dial. slut mud, Norwegian (dial.) slutr,” which translated to “sleet” or “impure liquid.” See Slut at

Slut first appeared in the written language in 1402, according to the Oxford English Dictionary…   At that time, slut meant roughly what one sense of slattern means today: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl.  It also apparently meant “kitchen maid” (”She is a cheerful slut who keeps the pots scrubbed and the fires hot.”).

On sleeping bags, see Sleeping bag – Wikipedia, or A short history of sleeping bags – Wilderness Magazine. Versions of the “new-fangled invention” were first offered for sale in the late 19th century.

On “Compostela” and translating the name “James.” The name of the city is “commonly thought to be derived from the word ‘apostle,’ although a Spanish-speaking list member reports having heard it derived from ‘field of stars,'” which in Latin would be “campus stellarum.” The name James in Spanish is “Diego” or “Iago” – thus “Saint Iago” – and in most languages, “James” and “Jacob” are identical.

For the last part about Stevenson – and why geezers like me keep searching for adventure in their old age – I borrowed from Canoeing 12 miles offshore, a May 2015 post on my companion blog. It addressed the musical question, “Why would two old geezers – 63 and 69 respectively – paddle so far out, into the realm of sharks and drownings?” (Over eight years ago.)

On Maudlin, see Definition in American English | Collins Online Dictionary. The word has come to mean foolishly, tearfully and/or weakly sentimental, or “sad and sentimental in a foolish way.” The site noted that Mary Magdalene “was often represented with eyes red from weeping.”

Also on “Apostle to the Apostles,” see Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” Given Equal Dignity in Feast, by order of Pope Francis in 2016.

The lower image is courtesy of,_1565):

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

Also, Titian did a “racier” version in 1533. See Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia. For more on this Mary see also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

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On today’s Pharisees – and “Freedom ’23”

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Pharisees have gotten a bad rep since the time of Jesus.

It wasn’t always so. Some Pharisees followed Jesus. They included Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and a man named Saul, who later became Paul. You may have heard of him. He later became second only to Jesus in his contribution to Christianity and its growth.

But people are more familiar with the downside, as in Matthew 23:13. Jesus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.” And Mark 7:6, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'” In time they inherited the reputation, “especially on the pulpits of many churches, of being ‘holier than thou’ and esteeming themselves more highly than others.” 

Or as said, “a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.”

And it’s mostly because of today’s Pharisees (I’d say), that church attendance has fallen. In 1999 70% of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. In 2018 it was 50%, and in 2020 it was 47%. That’s the first time in 80 years of polling the percentage fell below half.

A lot of it has to do with politics. Specifically, “Christians” who use the Faith as a tool of political power. I addressed the problem in Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2023. Speaking of Christian nationalists and the like, I noted that Garry Wills for one said Jesus was above politics. “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36.) And Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant” said Jesus simply never got involved in politics. He focused instead on healing the divisions so prevalent during His time on earth. (Not making them worse, “as some politicians do today.”)

A big part of solving the problem is finding a suitable name for such people, “Christians” who drive away possible new Christians “in droves.” I’ve tried such as “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” (A book under my nom de plume.) But that’s painting with too broad a brush. Or terms like Fundamentalist or Literalist. But as noted, all Christians should start out with “the fundamentals,” as in Army boot camp. Besides, both terms have too many syllables.

I finally came up with “CMCs.” Close-minded Christians. Christians who don’t follow what Jesus said in Luke 24:45. But what’s that got to do with “Freedom [in] ’23?” Just this, that only last Sunday I found a secret weapon against CMCs. Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly.”

The fact that they call themselves Christians is what you can say is the Achilles’ heel of CMCs, Christian Nationalists and the like. Their “weakness in spite of overall strength, which can lead to downfall.” (Or that might just lead to a Christian Nationalist becoming more of true Christian. Aside from that, it might do you some good too. See James 5:20.)

The point is that whenever a CMC insults a fellow American citizen – solely because that fellow citizen doesn’t follow the precise CMC party line – you can always ask, “Are [fill in the blank] the Ungodly?” Assuming the CMC answers yes (thus walking right into your trap), you can respond, “That’s funny, Romans 5:6 says that Jesus died for the ungodly.”

You can take it from there. The endless variations include Matthew 5:44, where Jesus said to love not just your neighbor, but your enemy as well. Which brings up Independence Day, just past, and how Romans 5:6 can help Americans keep free and independent. (Free from harassment, name-calling and worse for all Americans, not just those you agree with.)

 This idea of independence – national, secular or religious – can be messy. For one thing, freedom means the ability to make stupid choices. Also Living Stingy: “You can’t have freedom, unless you have the freedom to make bad choices.” Or choices that not every American agrees with. Which brings up early Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, written in large part by Thomas Jefferson, who went on to shape the Declaration of Independence. (Speaking of Independence.) In that statute the Virginia Burgesses gave up a monopoly on religion.  

They wrote that when a majority tries to influence the beliefs of others, they “beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.” (“Like it was written yesterday!”) The Burgesses also noted the  “impious presumption of legislators and rulers,” to establish “their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible.” Thus when “fallible and uninspired men” try and establish their own view of religion as “the only true and infallible,” we’re headed for trouble.

In other words, that religion is best that proves itself in the “free market place of ideas.” (See Marketplace of ideas – Wikipedia.) In further words, if your faith is true and sound, you won’t be afraid of a little competition.

The statute concluded by noting, “Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself… [It] has nothing to fear from the conflict.” So on this just-past July 4th, here’s to freedom, healthy competition in religion, and America’s Adversary system as the best way to find The Truth.

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A true Christian will never be afraid of a little healthy competition…

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The upper image is courtesy of Modern Day Pharisees – Image Results. Mark 7:6 has Jesus saying, You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'” In answer to the Scribes and Pharisees asking why His disciples did not “walk according to the tradition of the elders? “Note also the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, saying the four sources of spiritual development are the Bible, tradition, reason and experience. Of these four, “Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity.”

See also Pharisees – Wikipedia, noting they believed in an afterlife, but the Sadducees did not:

Pharisees are notable by the numerous references to them in the New Testament. While the writers record hostilities between the Pharisees and Jesus, they also reference Pharisees who believed in him, including Nicodemus, who said it is known that Jesus is a teacher sent from God, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple, and an unknown number of “those of the party of the Pharisees who believed,” among them the Apostle Paul – a student of Gamaliel, who warned the Sanhedrin that opposing the disciples of Jesus could prove to be tantamount to opposing God – even after becoming an apostle of Jesus.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Pharisees as “Holier than thou.” See Who are the Pharisees Today? Meet the Pharisees and Sadducees. See also, as noted, my post On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2023.

Church membership falling: Losing their religion: why US churches are on the decline, or Why Is Church Membership in America on the Decline?

“Only last Sunday.” The readings for July 9, 2023: “AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113 [-] 1 Samuel 14:36-45Rom. 5:1-11Matt. 22:1-14.”

A note: I found some interesting reading Googling “liberal insult conservative.”

“Independence Day.” The link is to On Independence Day, 2018. See also On Independence Day, 2016, and – earlier – On the Bible readings for July 4, 2014.

The lower image is courtesy of Lady With Scales Of Justice – Image Results.

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On John “T. Baptist” – 2023 (et alia)

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Salome beguiled her dad – Herod II – into beheading John the Baptist…

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For starters, today, a change of pace question: “Is God is man or woman?” Should we address Himanthropomorphism – as Father (Abba) or Mother? In my view, “He” is both. God is the Ultimate Married Couple. (No autocratic Pater familias.) We humans – men and women, alone – are only “half” of what we could and should be. That explains the “we” in passages like and Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 11:7, and why men and women spend so much time and effort trying to get together. (Illustrated in part by Salome‘s ability to beguile her father.) 

Well, that and the hormones…

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Back to a main theme of the blog. We have two major feast days at the end of June. Saturday, June 24, was the feast remembering the Birth of St. John, the Baptist. Next Thursday, June 29, is the day for remembering St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles. Thus the “et alia” in the title, meaning “and others,” and those others are Saints Peter and Paul.

The 2015 post Nativity of John the Baptist noted that John was the prophet who “foretold the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus, whom he later baptised.” Luke 1:57-80 tells of Elizabeth – cousin of Mary (mother of Jesus) – becoming a mother, late in life, and how her husband got  struck dumb. (Elizabeth had been barren, and she and her husband were old).

The time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced…  [T]hey were going to name him Zechariah after his father.  But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.”  They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.”  Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him.  He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John…”

John grew up to serve as forerunner or advance man for Jesus. (As in, “News Flash:  Jesus is on the way!“) As it says in the Collect: “your servant John the Baptist … sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.” But there was a downside to the job. That’s where Salome came in:

[T]hat “advance work for Jesus” included a gruesome death by beheading, as told in Mark 6:14–29:  “the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to [Salome]… When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.”

There’s more detail in the “Nativity 2015” post, but you get the idea.

The post John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016 noted each year on January 18 we celebrate the Confession of Peter:  “Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God.” A week later on January 25 we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul. Then comes June 29, when we celebrate both saints, together. And mostly to remember the “translation of their relics:”

On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles. The date is the anniversary of a day around 258, under the Valerian Persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.

Here the term relic means the body parts of people considered holy. (Like Peter and Paul.) Translating relics means moving those holy objects from one locale to another. (Usually to a “better neighborhood,” metaphorically or otherwise.) As for their deaths, the Bible gives no detail. But early tradition said they were martyred at Rome, at the command of the Emperor:

As a Roman citizen, Paul would probably have been beheaded with a sword. It is said of Peter that he was crucified head downward[. And thus as St. Augustine wrote,] “even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood…”

Another point to remember: It’s okay for Christians to have different opinions. (No human being is infallible.) Even saints like Peter and Paul disputed, including the Incident at Antioch. Of the dispute Wikipedia said the outcome remains uncertain, “resulting in several Christian views of the Old Covenant to this day.” (That dispute involved how much of the Old Testament law was binding on new, non-Jewish Christians. Like whether new, non-Jewish male Christians had to get circumcised.) That process of dispute resolution – called dialectics – is how we make spiritual progress, working together. That’s called the adversary system in our country.

Since the Fourth of July is coming right up, how much more American can you get?

So go ahead. Argue and dispute away. Just try not to tell anyone who dares disagree with you that “you’re going to hell.” (Remembering Deuteronomy 19:16, “et sequitur.”)

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“Scholars Disputing” – but Peter and Paul still worked together for Jesus…

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The upper image is courtesy of Salome – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘Salomé,’ by Henri Regnault (1870).The article added that this Salome (III) was…

…a Jewish princess, the daughter of Herod II, who was the son of Herod the Great, with princess Herodias. She was granddaughter of Herod the Great, and stepdaughter of Herod Antipas. She is known from the New Testament, where she is not named, and from an account by Flavius Josephus. In the New Testament, the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas demands and receives the head of John the Baptist.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: God as man or woman. Google “is god man or woman,” or see Is God a Man, Woman or Neither? – Bible Study: “Since God is composed of spirit (John 4:24), he is not male or female, masculine or feminine… Yet, in scripture, the Eternal constantly refers to Himself as a ‘He, not as an ‘it’ or as a ‘she.’ This truth makes some feminists not happy.” That’s an Old School answer, but my take on the question solves that problem. Or see Gender of God – Wikipedia, “Classical western philosophy believes that God lacks a literal sex as it would be impossible for God to have a body:”

In the Hebrew and Christian Bible, God is usually described in male terms in biblical sources, with female analogy in Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 123:2-3, and Luke 15:8-10; a mother in Deuteronomy 32:18, Isaiah 66:13, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 42:14, Psalm 131:2; and a mother hen in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, although never directly referred to as being female.

Also, “In Mormonism, God the Father is male and is married to the female Heavenly Mother.”

On these two feast days see also On “John T. Baptist,” Peter and Paul – 2021.

The lower image is courtesy of Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon … (web gallery of art.)  The explanatory section added that the most likely explanation of the painting is that it “represents St Peter and St Paul in conversation,” or even Argument:

Rembrandt omits the attributes by which the two apostles were traditionally identified, he relies only on their physical characteristics … and on what they are seen to be doing, that is earnestly discussing a text which the one (St Peter) is explaining to the other.

For other interpretations and/or images, see also  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

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